I think Atlanta's depth up front has allowed the defense to lean on its base package in recent weeks. Dan Quinn likes to rotate his D-linemen, and with nine productive guys at those spots, the Falcons can roll with the 4-3 under while keeping everyone fresh. And yes, faith in the linebackers helps too. As far as staying in the base more often, that has a lot to do with the opponents. Since they've gone up against backup QBs in consecutive games, they haven't had to worry much about the deep ball of late. I imagine we'll start seeing more nickel when defending the pass becomes more difficult.
A doctor will examine Durant's sprained elbow on Thursday. Once the Falcons have more information, they'll have a better idea of how to move forward.
I thought Brooks Reed looked solid—especially when tracking down Houston's running backs. He moved around well in the first half and, despite playing just 15 snaps, made two big stops near the line of scrimmage. It'll certainly be interesting to see how he progresses throughout October. If he locks down the strongside linebacker spot, Atlanta should be able to improve significantly versus the rush.
I wouldn't be surprised if Long is activated in the next few weeks. Still, I don't believe he'll be anything more than a backup. Jake Matthews is starting to look like a true franchise LT; Ryan Schraeder has gotten the best of every LDE he's faced in 2015 not named JJ Watt. Long could have value as a swing tackle, but with the starters playing so well, I'm not sure his role will expand beyond that.
I'm not surprised O'Brien Schofield, Robenson Therezie and Devonta Freeman have looked good. However, I didn't expect Freeman to be so dominant. On Sunday he became the first running back to score three times in each of his first two starts since 1970. That's almost half a century. I think Freeman—along with Schofield, Therezie and other depth players—have excelled because of the instruction they've received. Quinn and his staff have done a great job developing their backups, recognizing everyone's strengths/weaknesses and avoiding unfavorable matchups whenever possible.
I really liked how Therezie performed against the Texans. Yes, Ryan Mallett struggled, but the free safety maintained sound positioning and kept the ball in front of him at all times. The fact that an undrafted rookie could jump into such a big role without much trouble speaks volumes. And we can't forget about Terron Ward, another UDFA signing, who ran for 72 yards and a touchdown. Now comfortable in a zone blocking offense, Ward has clearly improved in the last few months. That development begins and ends with coaching.